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NCAA Basketball Bribery Defense Is Rejected by Federal Judge

Three men accused of facilitating bribes to entice recruits to play for top-tier college basketball programs moved a step closer to a trial as a federal judge rejected their claim that they were actually trying to help the universities.

U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan on Thursday denied a bid to throw out the charges against former Adidas AG executive James Gatto, consultant Merl Code and agent Christian Dawkins. The three had argued that they were trying to help the University of Louisville and the University of Miami after being asked to do so by their basketball coaches, but Kaplan rejected that claim, saying the coaches may not have been representing the interests of the colleges.

"To say that the singular goal was to help the universities is naive," Kaplan said at a court hearing in Manhattan. "To attempt to equate the actions and statements of the coaches with actions of their employers is at best premature.”

The judge didn’t decide the case, saying only that it could move toward a trial. The men are among nine people charged in a three-year probe into illicit kickbacks in college basketball that reached the highest levels of the sport and led to the ouster of Hall-of-Fame coach Rick Pitino of the University of Louisville, who was fired in the wake of the investigation. Neither Pitino nor coaches at Louisville or Miami have been accused of wrongdoing.

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